Grande Cache is a hamlet within the Rocky Mountains surrounded by three river valleys. We sat down with Gerry Scott, a local and keen mountain biker, to ask him about mountain biking and trail riding in the region.
Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you lived in Grande Cache and how long have you been mountain biking?
I’ve been living in Grande Cache for 40 plus years. I’ve been mountain biking for about 30 of them.
And what makes mountain biking in Grande Cache special?
Grande Cache is a unique place for biking because it is surrounded by wilderness. You can go pretty much anywhere you want.
You can go onto old legacy trails and explore the mountains with no crowds. When you live with the wilderness at your doorstep, don’t be surprised to see a bear in your front yard.
Visitors to Grande Cache who come here to bike won’t find a chair lift, it’s all muscle power here. But what you can find are very long trails, very short trails, varied terrain. You can go down mountains or you can cruise through Valley bottoms. You can spend the whole day biking and never see the same spot twice.
How’s the weather in Grande Cache? And how does the region change through the seasons?
The weather in Grande Cache is varied. It can rain or snow any day of the month, any month of the year. It can be beautiful, it can be cold and windy, and it can be great.
In the winter there’s cross country skiing. The snow here is so dry and powdery, it’s great.
Spring comes early around here… sometimes. When it does, you can get out on your bike in March or April. The trails dry up very quickly because we don’t usually get a lot of snow. It’s not like the other side of the Rockies. It can be very dry and it’s just a really nice time of the year.
In the summertime, you have plenty of recreational opportunities here in Grande Cache. It may not be the longest season, but it’s really nice. Not usually too hot and not usually too rainy. On any given day, a visitor to Grande Cache can see: grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, foxes, deer, elk, and moose. We have all the large animals commonly seen in Alberta. If you go up in the hills, there are sheep and goats to add to the list, and if you’re really lucky and you’re very quiet, you might even see a cougar in the trees.
Which trails in Grande Cache would you recommend for families or beginner mountain bikers?
For those who are just starting out in mountain biking, I would suggest you stick to the green trails, close to town or the trails in the river valley. They’re not too technical, they have great scenery, you’re close to town, they’re nice and short, you won’t be tested too terribly much. Take your time, you’ll have a great time.
For beginners or families, I would suggest you check out the Griffith trail first. It’s a nice, wide and gentle gravelled trail. It’s easy to follow, with great viewpoints. It’s easy for children, easy for beginners. And it forms a loop around town, so it’ll bring you right back to wherever you started. You can get on it from any number of points in town, and if you decide you’ve had enough, there’s always a way out to the street and back to wherever it is you’re staying.
And what about more experienced mountain bikers?
As your experience improves, we have blue trails and some black. There are many long-distance trails that you could enjoy. Some of them are a little on the steep side, but they’re all manageable.
When you’re mountain biking in Grande Cache, especially if you’re a little way in the bush, be prepared for the wildlife. In all the years of my riding, I’ve never had a bad experience with the wildlife here and I’ve seen all of them.
Where can visitors find out more about the various trails in and around Grande Cache?
If you want to enjoy some of the trails the locals use, check out Trailforks. They have a website and an app. In there, you’ll find the Grande Cache Cycling Club and all the trails that the people in the club ride.
There are some real gems around here that are not necessarily on any maps that are published in other places. The trail on Hamel comes to mind. It’s a fantastic trail; it’s eight and a half kilometres.
Visitors coming to town that would like to enjoy the trails that the locals know could either get a hold of a local through the Grande Cache mountain biking club, or check out Trailforks for some of the trails that are listed in there. There are a lot of gems that are not on any of the printed maps.
Do you need any special equipment for mountain biking here?
For people just starting out in mountain biking, if you’re going to ride around the Grande Cache area, you don’t need an expensive bike, any bike will do.
I have been riding for many years, so I ride a rather expensive one, but it’s certainly not necessary to have top of the line gear. The only thing I would suggest is to make sure you bring water and a camera.
What would be your perfect day in Grande Cache?
A perfect day for me on my bike is one that’s sunny, with a little gentle breeze. A long trail in the autumn just can’t be beaten.
My favourite trails are ‘Learning to Fly’ on Mount Hamel and a nice long autumn tour through Cowlick Creek and out to Hayden Ridge.
The best place to cool off after a long hot ride would be the beach at Grande Cache Lake or the pool. Then if you want to have a drink with the locals, you could head to The Legion, The Ridge, or the Rockies Bar and Grill.
Do you find visitors have any misconceptions about Grande Cache before they arrive? And what do they find when they actually get here?
The big misconception about Grande Cache is it’s at the end of a long, horrible, terrible road. The road is much better than it used to be, you should come visit.
If you come to Grande Cache to check out the mountains, it’s a completely different experience to visiting other national parks. You’ll find yourself alone. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, and there are no crowds or tour buses. You’ll have the place to yourself, so you can go out and enjoy it.